Setting aside their long-standing differences, Assosport and the Italian Outdoor Group (IOG) signed a collaboration agreement. The two bodies will continue to operate independently of each other, but the deal is being regarded by some as a first step toward a possible merger in the future. Technically, a merger would not be possible at this stage because of a difference in the statutes, which were recently amended by the IOG to welcome specialty outdoor retailers as members.

The two associations declared in a joint statement that their first objective is to bring the European Outdoor Summit (EOS) to Italy. Taking the place of the former European Outdoor Forum organized by Outdoor Sports Valley in Annecy, France, the EOS is organized by the European Outdoor Group (EOG) in a different country each year, in collaboration with the local outdoor industry association. It has taken place in the last three years in Sweden, Germany and the U.K. Spain will be next in September this year.

The IOG is affiliated with the EOG, but it is too small to support the expenses and the work that would be required to co-organize the EOS. Run by Luca Pedrotti, owner of Aicad and its Lizard brand, it counts a total of 17 members including big names like Asolo, Baldas, Camp, Grivel, Reda Rewoolution and the Italian representatives of Garmin, Meindl, Teva and Vaude.

As the Italian sporting goods industry association, Assosport represents about half of the total sector in all the product categories. Run by Sandro Parisotto, managing director of Scarpa, the Outdoor Group of Assosport has 21 members including the Italian subsidiary of Amer Sports, Brugi, Fratelli Campagnolo, Gabel, Garmont, Grisport, Gronell, Intersocks and Scarpa. Aku Italia, Ferrino and La Sportiva are members of both associations.

Mark Held, who runs the EOG, said that Assosport and the IOG are welcome to make a proposal for the 2017 edition of the EOS, but it will be in competition with a bid from another country that he declined to name. Luca Businaro, president of Assosport, knows Held well because he also chairs the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry (Fesi), of which the EOG is a member.

Anyway, the initial program of cooperation between the IOG and Assosport goes beyond the EOS, capitalizing on their complementarity and on their possible synergies. Assosport will involve the IOG in its international promotion activities for the Italian sporting goods industry, such as the invitation of foreign buyers, which is aided by the Italian government, and its management training programs.

For its part, the IOG will open the doors of its Outdoor Shop Test, a small mobile exhibition of new products for trade operators, to Assosport's members. It will also invite them to the traditional IOG Breakfast for the press at Ispo Munich.